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Why Is Sacramento the Capital of California?

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Bgpappa is an American history buff and writer. He lives in Sacramento.

As unassuming as it may be, Sacramento has a long and rich history in the Golden State

As unassuming as it may be, Sacramento has a long and rich history in the Golden State

Why Sacramento?

Ask any grade school student in New York or Chicago what the capital of California is—most would likely say Los Angeles or San Francisco. Surprisingly, however, the capital of California is Sacramento. Located within the Central Valley, Sacramento is California's seventh most populous city, and it certainly isn't the most well-known city in the state. So the question most people ask when they learn Sacramento is California's capital city is: Why?

Sacramento was chosen as the capital of California because:

  • It was founded early in the state's history.
  • It was the center of Gold Rush economic activities
  • It has a convenient inland location, close to both the Sierra Nevada and the Pacific coast

To find out more about how and why Sacramento was chosen as the capital, keep on reading!

The History of Sacramento's Settlement

The history of Sacramento is as old as California itself. The area that would eventually become the state capital was originally settled by John Sutter. Sutter built Sutter's Fort in the heart of what is now downtown Sacramento. Sutter's Fort was used as a trading colony and military stockade, where fruits, vegetables, and other resources that were found in the area were distributed to Sacramento's earliest settlers. Sutter also built mills in the nearby foothills. It was at one of these mills—in what is now Coloma—where John Marshall, an employee at Sutter's Fort, found gold in a stream in 1849.

Sutter's Fort still stands in downtown Sacramento

Sutter's Fort still stands in downtown Sacramento

Eureka! The Gold Rush Brings More Settlers to Sacramento

Around the time Marshall screamed, "Eureka!", John Sutter's son, John Sutter Jr. was planning to make Sacramento a city. It was incorporated in 1849 and was the first incorporated city in the state of California. Due to Sacramento's location at the base of the foothills (which were filled with gold) and only ninety miles inland from San Francisco, Sacramento was a major distribution point and center for Gold Rush activities. That is why Sacramento was the starting point of the First Transcontinental Railroad. Most of the people who came to California searching for fortune went through Sacramento. In addition, the businesses and services that came to California with the minors settled in Sacramento.

Why is the unassuming city of Sacramento the capital of California?

Why is the unassuming city of Sacramento the capital of California?

When Did Sacramento Become the Capital of California?

Originally, Monterey was chosen as the capital of California. However, after Monterey hosted California's Constitutional Convention in 1849 and California was admitted as a state to the United States, the capital was moved, first to San Jose, then to Vallejo, and then to Benicia. In 1854, the capital was moved again, this time to Sacramento—and Sacramento is where it remained.

Why Was Sacramento Chosen as the Capital?

Sacramento was a logical choice for the state capital. First, because of the Gold Rush, Sacramento had become the destination point for the new settlers who came to California hoping to strike it rich. With the gold miners came shopkeepers, blacksmiths, and other service-related entrepreneurs, giving the city a good economic base.

Second, unlike the other temporary capitals, Sacramento was not near the ocean, and that meant there was little chance of invasion. However, Sacramento's proximity to rivers that led to San Francisco and other ports allowed the city to engage in the economy both on land and at sea.

Last, many of the most powerful people in the newly formed state of California lived in Sacramento. John Sutter and John Marshall helped found the city, so the city had already been planned—street grids were completed and it already had a government in place. No new city had to be formed; rather, the state capital could move to an area that had already been established.

Today, Sacramento is a growing city with a small-town vibe

Today, Sacramento is a growing city with a small-town vibe

What Is Sacramento Like Today?

The California State Capitol building remains the centerpiece of downtown Sacramento. Around the capital, the buildings housing the government have risen to accommodate the growth of state bureaucracy. The city of Sacramento has grown as well, and it still strives to be considered a big city comparable to Los Angeles and San Francisco. But while the other cities have all the perks (and problems) of big cities, Sacramento remains a small town at heart—proud to house the center of California's government.

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Moises Cisneros on July 31, 2020:

You forgot to mention that the invasion Of Mexico was planned and deployed from Fort Sutter that was the center of operations for the traitors as Sutter and the invaders To stole this land to Mexico.

horse on May 27, 2020:

thank you this helped me so much with a project i was doing.

chin on April 24, 2020:

Thanks for this article.

LinuxTux23 on March 27, 2020:

Your article is very well written. I´am not a native speaker but i can understand it very good.

JC George on December 10, 2019:

Why no mention of the start of the railroad in Sacramento?

juliez on September 26, 2019:

i live there

Arson sams on September 23, 2019:

Californie il good

sylvester on August 27, 2019:

i help me a lot thanks

Yeet on May 10, 2019:

Thx, Really helped a lot

Big Chungus dude on April 10, 2019:

Thank you so good for a question that I had in a essay report

RosieZeeRiveter on April 08, 2019:

Thanks so much! This really helped me with my homework!

Natilyn on January 29, 2019:

Thanks!!! The info was very helpful for my homework.

Cj dunkins on November 14, 2018:

Becoming a shit hole. Too many politicians who only.have their own agenda at heart..Thdy fleece the people who live there. .Use to be a nice place. I know I have lived here for 68 years

Piper on September 04, 2018:

not sure about it still!

oof_its_nae on May 08, 2018:

thank you i really needed is for my paper im writing

bgpappa on May 05, 2018:

THank you all for the comments

jhewjksdk on February 06, 2018:


lydia schneeweis on January 25, 2018:

hi thx sooo much for the info on sacramento it was so helpful

Wilson on September 06, 2017:

When I first saw Sacramento personally and learned that it is the capital, I couldn't help wondering why such a small town looking city is the capital without the alive snd busy atmosphere of San Francisco or Los Angeles. It looks like a town! A boring town.

owlschool on January 31, 2017:

good info my school kids learned alot

bullhead on November 13, 2016:


hakeemelamin2001 on August 04, 2016:

Thanks man. I never thought Sacramento had so much info to why it is the capital. But thanks to you I now know. keep up the good work bro.

vinnie on May 03, 2016:

thx for the stuff i really needed the info

x.r. on April 07, 2015:

Beautiful piece. You should do one on all the major cities of california.

Lizabeth. on July 13, 2014:

Love on Ohio. Love That California Capital!! Great city.....great people.

bgpappa (author) from Sacramento, California on May 19, 2014:

LA then wasn't what LA is now. Good a long time for LA to become a big city. Sacramento was already founded, organized, and both connected to the riverways but far enough away for defense.

Michael on May 19, 2014:

i still dont understand why sacramento is the capital of california instead of los angeles

bgpappa (author) from Sacramento, California on April 07, 2014:

You are welcome?

? on April 07, 2014:

gosh thanks!!!!!!

kelly on September 19, 2013:

any chance you can post your name?? I'd like to use this info for a paper but I need to site it...I can just use the website I guess but being able to link it directly to an actual person would make it more credible. I hope you get this. Thanks

pandaface on May 23, 2013:

thanks for the info

bgpappa (author) from Sacramento, California on January 17, 2013:

Ok, would you like to be more specific?

Thanks for stopping by

Lola on January 17, 2013:

Still don't get it

bgpappa (author) from Sacramento, California on July 03, 2012:

Thanks so much awesome.

AwesomeM on July 02, 2012:

Awesome read! As a proud Sacramentan, its not a bad city to live in. You're on point on the "small town at heart," very true. Great job!

bgpappa (author) from Sacramento, California on May 15, 2012:

Thanks for reading.

bigeyguy on May 15, 2012:

thanks for helping

bgpappa (author) from Sacramento, California on January 29, 2012:

No problem, and thanks for such kind words. There is great historical sites in Northern California, and Sacramento is just the start.

Thanks for stopping by.

staci141 on January 29, 2012:

This is a great article on Sacramento (and why it is the capital of California.) Being a northern Californian and my husband a transplant from Boston, Mass, I've always felt responsible for relaying historical facts about this region. For the most part, I had surmised and embellished upon details of our state's early history, but always wanted to know for certain. My entire family was delighted to hear new and interesting trivia!

Thanks for the lesson.

bgpappa (author) from Sacramento, California on April 04, 2011:

Thanks for the comment.

tom boy girl on April 04, 2011:

I am doing California for a state project so recommend this toanyone else you know. Well the site of course

bgpappa (author) from Sacramento, California on May 27, 2010:

thanks for reading

blah bla on May 27, 2010:

i never new

bgpappa (author) from Sacramento, California on May 15, 2010:

Its not forsaken, just not cosmopolitan.

Thanks for reading.

SteveoMc from Pacific NorthWest on May 15, 2010:

I did always ask myself why they would choose such a forsaken country to put a capital in, now I know. Thanks for the information.

bgpappa (author) from Sacramento, California on January 15, 2010:

thanks for the comment

bgpappa (author) from Sacramento, California on June 18, 2009:

Thanks for reading. Yes I do, I live about 15 minutes outside Sacramento. Most of the area is very beautiful.

wildfremd from Portland, Oregon on June 18, 2009:

Great info! Do you live in the sacramento area? It's so beautiful there....

bgpappa (author) from Sacramento, California on June 07, 2009:


James A Watkins from Chicago on June 07, 2009:

Coloma!  I am a proud member of the class of 1973! 

Of Coloma . . . Michigan.  Thanks, I enjoyed the history of Sacramento. 

bgpappa (author) from Sacramento, California on June 05, 2009:

Thanks for the comment.

Writer Rider on June 05, 2009:

Sacramento where? Never heard of it (sarcasm intended). To me Los Angeles should be the capital of California.

goldentoad from Free and running.... on June 05, 2009:

it was out on video the same day as the theatrical release

bgpappa (author) from Sacramento, California on June 05, 2009:

lol, did the last one make $100,000

goldentoad from Free and running.... on June 05, 2009:

I guess we'll get started making the next terminator movie.

bgpappa (author) from Sacramento, California on June 05, 2009:

No way, he never officially moved here so you get him back. And his $100,000 Cigar tent too.

goldentoad from Free and running.... on June 05, 2009:

You can keep Arnold in the deal.

bgpappa (author) from Sacramento, California on June 05, 2009:

lol, there are a lot of people that say that. But it is what it is. And Sacramento has a pretty interesting history.

Thanks for the comment.

goldentoad from Free and running.... on June 05, 2009:

sacramento should only be the capital of NoCal. SoCal should be its own state.

bgpappa (author) from Sacramento, California on June 05, 2009:

thanks for reading.

EcoAsh from Hemet on June 05, 2009:

Nice hub! I have always wondered why Sacramneto was the capital.

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